Prevalence and clinical significance of cardiac murmurs in neonates
Ainsworth, S.; Wyllie, J.P.; Wren, C.
Archives of Disease in Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition 80(1): F43-F45
To define the normal range of systolic blood pressure in a non-selective population based sample of babies of low gestation throughout early infancy. Daily measurements of systolic blood pressure were made in all the babies of less than 32 weeks gestation born in the North of England in 1990 and 1991 during the first 10 days of life. Additional measurements were obtained from 135 of these babies throughout the first year of life. Systolic pressure was measured by sensing arterial flow with a Doppler ultrasound probe. It was assumed that blood pressure had never been pathologically abnormal in the neonatal period if the child was alive and free from severe disability two years later. Data of adequate quality were available from 398 such children. Additional data wer collected, for comparative purposes, from 123 babies of 32, 36, or 40 weeks of gestation. Systolic pressure correlated with weight and gestation at birth, and rose progressively during the first 10 days of life. The coefficient of variation did not vary with gestational or postnatal age (mean value 17%), the relation with gestation being closer than with birthweight. Systolic pressure rose 20% during the first 10 days from an initial mean of 42 mm Hg in babies of 24 weeks gestation, and by 42% from an initial mean of 48 mm Hg in babies of 31 weeks gestation. These findings were not altered by the exclusion of data from 14 babies who had inotropic support during this time. Simultaneous measurements in three centres using an oscillometric technique revealed that this technique tended to overestimate systolic pressure when this was below average. Systolic pressure finally stabilised at a mean of 92 (95% CI 72-112) mm Hg at a postconceptional age of 44-48 weeks irrespective of gestation at birth. Systolic blood pressure 4-24 hours after birth was less than gestational age (in weeks) in only 3% of non-disabled long term survivors. Systolic pressure rose with increasing gestation and increasing postnatal age, but stabilised some six weeks after term, regardless of gestation at birth. To determine the prevalence and clinical significance of murmurs detected during routine neonatal examination. In a two year prospective study, 7204 newborn babies underwent routine examination by senior house officers. All those with murmurs underwent echocardiographic examination. All babies presenting later in infancy were also identified, to ascertain the total prevalence of congenital heart disease in infancy. Murmurs were detected in 46 babies (0.6%) of whom 25 had a cardiac malformation. The most common diagnosis was a ventricular septal defect, although four babies had asymptomatic left heart outflow obstruction. A further 32 infants from the same birth cohort had a normal neonatal examination but were found to have a cardiac malformation before 12 months of age. The neonatal examination detects only 44% of cardiac malformations which present in infancy. If a murmur is heard there is a 54% chance of there being an underlying cardiac malformation. Parents and professionals should be aware that a normal neonatal examination does not preclude a clinically significant cardiac malformation. The detection of a murmur should prompt early referral to a paediatric cardiologist for diagnosis or appropriate reassurance.